The coincidence of reading about Kate Spade’s suicide and the blockbuster new horror film, “Hereditary”…

… has had UD thinking about horror. So here is her sermon on horror.

This is Part One, because Les UDs are going out for a meal soon.

She begins with this text, from the novelist Harold Brodkey’s memoir, written as he was dying of AIDS:

Life is a kind of horror. It is OK, but it is wearing.

It is OK – that is, we can take it, we do take it; or we ignore it (“I have wondered at times if maybe my resistance to the fear-of-death wasn’t laziness and low mental alertness, a cowardly inability to admit that horror was horror,” Brodkey writes elsewhere.), or we – and this is where it gets interesting, if you ask ol’ UD – we cultivate that admission as an important awareness.

Brodkey rightly identifies his inability to admit that horror is horror as cowardly: Keep your mind in hell and do not despair is the epigraph to Gillian Rose’s early-dying memoir, and it goes to the ethical imperative, if you want to be a serious, reflective person, to evolve and sustain the double vision implicit in Saint Silouan’s famous statement.

Taking on board the horror means not merely acknowledging as fully as you can the first noble truth of suffering; it also means (I suppose this is a subset of suffering; but hold on, cuz my sermon wants to focus on our love of profoundly horrifying films) acknowledging how intimately, sickeningly, undone we are by the lifelong spectacle of just how enigmatically grotesque and grotesquely enigmatic are both grounded human existence and ungrounded cosmic reality.

I read somewhere (can’t find the source) that the best way to get through life is engrossed in “reasonably short-term, manageable anxieties.” Your kid needs to get a job; you want to pay off the mortgage in five years; you want to take fifty points off your cholesterol score. If you can manage, for most of your run, to keep your head down and contend not at all with the incommensurable violent isolating madness just over the atmosphere, bravo. Or maybe it’s cowardly. But anyway, it’s functional, and you’ll get by.

Think of all those great books about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. Most people would prefer to be John Roebling, totally engrossed for decades in iron probes, than doomed, metaphysical, Hart Crane.

You probably don’t get Chartres or the Brooklyn Bridge built if, like John Koethe, you spend extended time wondering this:


What feels most frightening
Is the thought that when the lightning
Has subsided, and the clearing sky
Appears at last above the stage
To mark the only end of age,
That God, that distant and unseeing eye,

Would see that none of this had ever been:
That none of it, apparent or unseen,
Was ever real, and all the private words,
Which seemed to fill the air like birds
Exploding from the brush, were merely sounds
Without significance or sense,
Inert and dead beneath the dense
Expanse of the earth in its impassive rounds.

Horror vacui is a place many of us have been, and fine, because the capacity to entertain the possibility of nihilism is, I think, a mark of a sensitive, educated person.

But there’s also horror plenitudinis, no? That moment in our lives, wrote Rilke, where

the pure too-little

is changed incomprehensibly -, altered

into that empty too-much.

And this is where the horror film comes in.

***************

My opening text on that subject is this one, from one of many excited reviews of Hereditary:

Despite the challenge of watching the film, reviews so far have been almost universally glowing. Critics have lauded Hereditary’s ability to get under their skin, noting that it’s the kind of movie you just can’t shake, as much as you’d like to. The feedback suggests that people turn to films like Hereditary because they want to be fucked up

New faculty at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill must sign a “Community Life Covenant”…

… in the wake of the ongoing Professor Jay Smith… unpleasantness. Beginning in September 2019, all teaching/research hires will be asked to certify the following:


I, _______ _________, having accepted a lectureship/professorship at UNCCH, do hereby swear, with all my heart, all my soul, and all my might, the Faith Priority of my school’s major sports teams (viz., football and basketball). Specifically, I pledge strict obedience to the Gaming Imperatives issued by our coaching staff, as well as by any in-residence professional agents seeking to recruit future clients, as those imperatives relate to professors, tutors, graduate students, and anyone else in a position of responsibility relative to the education of our players.

*************

UD thanks John.

The Divine Mystery of Sport

Lo! The People turn aside and do not attend, while the High Priests hide their ledgers and take money from slaves.

Yea though the Lord sees and is full of wrath, we can do no other for we see as through a glass darkly.

Last year’s anonymous letter spelled it out…

and today’s student sit-in at cash-machine-for-administrators Howard University shouts it out: At some point, a university becomes so squalid that its students have no choice but to take over running it from the knaves on the board of trustees. Just as seventeen year olds have to change America’s gun laws, nineteen year olds have to run Howard University.

Maya McCollum, a 19-year-old freshman who helped organize the sit-in, said on Friday that the news of [massively] misappropriated financial aid money was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

It’s all about the culture of the school, and making sure student culture matches administrative culture. Here, there’s a terrible mismatch. The Howard student culture has long been thoughtful, subversive, principled; the administrative culture has long been what’s in it for me. And so you generate the sort of conflict we see right now.

A shining example of a complete match between students and administration is self-righteous, rapeaholic, Baylor University. Baylor just gave a gift of fifteen million dollars to the football coach who oversaw, for years, large-scale rape on the school’s football team, and who recently filed a massive libel lawsuit against the school (he eventually dropped it – I guess when he got wind of the fact that Baylor was going to give him fifteen million dollars…). Do you hear a peep out of anyone – students, faculty – about their money having gone to someone who initiated a multimillion dollar lawsuit against their school? Who looked the other way (or worse) while his players raped and raped and raped?

Baylor still faces multiple expensive lawsuits from victims of its football players… I mean, think of all the university funds it’s losing in this long disgraceful spectacle. But do you see any student protest? Even a mild letter to the editor of the school newspaper? NO. Baylor’s full of good Christian rape-apologists. One for all and all for one.

*************

UD thanks Dirk.

God is My Broker.

Some stories write themselves.

Actually, what you’ve probably learned from reading UD all these years is that almost all stories write themselves, because human beings are limited creatures and the number of plots (conundrums) they can create for themselves is therefore also strictly limited.

**********************

The profoundly pious get rich quick crook who finally gets picked up by the police and carted away to make room for the next profoundly etc. is such an old story.

Specifically, twas ever thus: Credulous grasping god-fearing dolts find a charismatic spiritual/financial advisor who writes best-sellers with titles like The Gospel of Good Success and Entrepreneurial Faith.

The particular guy in question today even has a degree from (wait for it) the Wharton School! (Feast your eyes on America’s Richest Source of Financial Criminals.) He allegedly sold

$3.4 million worth of pre-revolutionary Chinese bonds, which were in default, to the “vulnerable and elderly.”

Southern Methodist U., one of the most pious and dirtiest universities around, had the dude on their board of trustees until recently. They dodged a bullet on that one. Maybe they knew something before the feds did — though, in fairness, they could have told the world about it and maybe spared the vulnerable and elderly their full measure of exploitation.

************************

But anyway. Another high-toned man of god will be stepping up to the podium soon. It’s a never-ending story.

“I’ll leave my board position when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.”

Everyone’s all ooh wow ooh about St Thomas University’s CFO resigning her position at that way-Catholic school rather than leave the board of AR-15-mad Smith and Wesson. (She was given an ultimatum from the school.) Everyone’s like: Look! She chose assault weapons over a church school!

But read the fine print, kiddies. Smith and Wesson (they’ve given themselves some new all-natural name… who knows why? … it’s like… can’t remember but it’s like Gentle Valley Breezes…) pays people willing to be associated with it upwards of $100,000 a year — and you and I know what service on a corporate board entails: Two free trips to Hawaii to sit in a room for a half hour and get excited about how much shit (here, AR-15s) the corporation’s selling.

If you had to choose between actually working – as a chief financial officer – and sitting on your ass all year and still pulling in a hundred thou, what would you do? Plus you get all the free AR-15s you want.

Three rapes, two diseases.

For those keeping count, Tariq Ramadan has so far filed two disease claims in hopes of getting out of jail (MS and neuropathy); three rape claims have so far been filed against him. Expect his lawyers to come up with a third disease (UD suggests early prostate cancer) to even the score.

The Tariq Ramadan of Indian Country

Ladies, read up and understand the pattern. They’re your literary and/or spiritual heroes, and you go to them for guidance and a blurb for your book of poems and they jump you.

After they succeed or fail at having their way, they threaten your career if you tell anyone.

Yes! Utah State University Maintains the Campus-Hero’s Page of Football Player…

Torrey Green, who graduated with a top-ranked 7.0 sexual assault average, and on whom the school looks back with pride. No better time for the school to celebrate Green than now, when he’s on trial for “12 felonies — including kidnapping and rape — in seven cases, after seven women came forward saying he sexually assaulted them while he was a student in Logan between 2013 and 2015.”

Of course, they came forward years ago, but USU didn’t do anything. USU puts its resources into maintaining Torrey Green’s hero-page.

****************

USU’s finest is facing so many charges that his lawyer, in an act of editing-for-concision that Scathing Online Schoolmarm finds commendable, asks that all the cases “be merged to avoid ‘redundancy.'”

It’s so tiresomely repetitive, the details of one (yawn) rape case after another… You’ve heard one rape case you’ve heard ’em all…

This way we’ll save time and keep the jury awake…

****************

And after all, I mean… entre nous… it’s Utah, where a man can lose track of his sister wives… I’m sure it’ll be easy to convince a local judge that Green’s large blur of womenfolk can be herded into one trial.

Notre Dame des Peines

Dear Lord forgive us our buyout and our fraud
And all else we do unworthy of our God;
Show mercy, in thy holy name!
For nothing matters more than football games.

‘Oxford Theologian Tariq Ramadan to be Charged Over Rape Accusations in Paris’

Now that Ramadan has been charged with rape (including apparently rape of a disabled woman), it’ll be interesting to see how long Oxford University decides it wants to delectate headlines of this sort.. I mean … It’s a man’s world… And he’s their man… Maybe they’ll just go with it until he achieves the vindication I’m sure awaits him…

Ave Atque Vale, Butt Chugging!

If this horrible man gets his way and makes fraternities illegal throughout the state of Tennessee, say goodbye to butt chugging. You won’t have anal enemaists to kick around any more.

Yes, say goodbye to lengthy press conferences like this one, offering precise details about what it’s like when fraternities full of drunk teenagers “introduc[e] alcohol into the rectum and colon via the anus.”

Farewell, golden college days…

No, that’s the wrong color. That’s the color when they make pledges lie down and then they piss all over them, and then they make them sit up and drink piss.

Farewell, russet college days.

In literature, Scrooge alters at the end of life.

We prefer – we even assume – this trajectory, in which human character is not utterly set at birth, but expands toward some form of realization and even – given a strikingly bad set of character traits – conversion over time.

The story of one of this blog’s minor, persistent, characters – Yeshiva University benefactor Ira Rennert – represents an all too human reminder of the difference between literature and life. For as this multi-billionaire enters his 83rd year of life, as he winds down his tale, he simply persists in his awfulness.

And this is interesting. UD finds it interesting to contemplate such a man, with his Long Island residence so notorious that, when he was on trial for looting the retirement fund of one of his businesses (he was found guilty), his lawyer begged the judge not to allow the jurors to see photographs of it because it would “inflame” them; a man, who having been made to repay the retirement funds, is now suing his lawyers for that amount.

Whenever America’s obscenely rich behave obscenely, there you will find Rennert — flying his private helicopter illegally; polluting the world’s environment; cheating on his taxes, bankrolling illegal settlements.

Like Bernard Madoff’s right-hand man, Ezra Merkin, Ira Rennert is a very high-profile pious person. His name ornaments a business institute for Orthodox Jewish entrepreneurs; he was until recently head of New York’s most prominent synagogue. Ezra Merkin’s synagogue. All three men (along with comrade in whatever Zygi Wilf, after whom a Yeshiva campus is named) were/are majorly involved with/major donors to the extremely curiously run Yeshiva University.

But that, of course, is literary: religious hypocrisy.

Our Rod and His Staff they Comfort Me.

1 Rich Rod is our shepherd; we shall not want.

2 He maketh us to lie to his wife: he leadeth us to his erection.

3 He bribeth our staff: he leadeth us to the path of visually enhanced underwear for his cock’s sake.

4 Yea, though we plead for jobs in other departments, we will get no response: for “Coach Rodriguez would be pissed.”

5 Our school preparest six million dollars for him to go away; yea, he will take the money and sue us for forty million more.

6 Surely his woman-beating players will follow us all the days of our life: and we will dwell in the house of The Rod for ever.

*********************

UD thanks David and John.

‘A 14 years old orphan in Maralal who was due to be married off after being subjected to female genital mutilation has been rescued.’

A lede that packs in a lot.

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